From sheep and cattle farming in Victoria to a seat on the National Farmers Federation Young Farmers’ Council, Jamie Pepper’s journey is one of courage, resilience and breaking barriers.

Being a farmer often means being your own boss. It can involve long days spent alone. Given that, it’s very easy to stay in your own lane. Jamie Pepper’s ‘lane’ is sheep and cattle farming in Victoria. But he’s stepped outside his comfort zone in many ways. He’s a leader in the industry, with a place on the National Farmers’ Federation Young Farmers’ Council – a role that’s taken him to the other side of the world. He’s also openly gay and shares his story in the hope it may help others.

Farming is life

Jamie says calving and lambing seasons are busiest for him. He loves checking the animals each day. To hear him speak about taking on the family farm, he’s incredibly passionate and never had any doubts that’s where he’d end up. He’s been farming full-time for 12 years now.

“I don’t love to call it a job. It’s not even a lifestyle. It’s life,” he says.

“Farming is life for me. I know that there is hard work involved and, at times, long hours. But it’s life. Fortunately for me, I very much like my life.”

Jamie has travelled the world to provide a young Australian farmer voice at different forums.

Representing Australian agriculture on a global stage

When he’s not on the farm, Jamie is travelling the world as a selected delegate to represent the industry.

Late last year, he attended Cop28 (the United Nations Climate Conference) in Dubai. Jamie noted the perception of Australian farmers was that they were innovative and forward thinking.

“That’s an interesting point to me. Because, if I was to talk to other Australian people, I think the view could be that Australian farmers are regressive in their thinking of climate change,” Jamie shares.

“I think that’s really positive that we are seen as leaders in the climate space.”

Embracing leadership roles

Jamie’s leadership role has taken him to several locations around the world. His family raised him to believe it’s important to give back and do what you can.

“If you don’t step up, or put yourself out there, I believe you forfeit your right to criticise or be critical of decisions that are made,” he says.

“I want to help the future of Australian ag, which is why I’m sitting here in 2024, looking forward. It’s looking very bright. There’s no doubt about that.”

There was no other career pathway for Jamie other than farming.

The leadership Jamie shows in his professional life, he’s also shown in his personal life, promoting diversity in agriculture by sharing his story as a gay man working in the industry.

“As a product of coming from a very caring and supportive family, I have never felt ashamed. I’ve never even really felt bias towards me,” he shares.

Jamie says his experience is one of respect among others in the industry.

“I always like to think of myself as Jamie Pepper – the farmer. Not Jamie Pepper – the gay farmer.”

Inspiring others to be themselves

The fact he’s happy to talk about himself has become a source of counsel to other young farmers who may feel the desire to hide that part of their life, for fear of criticism.

“Life is a long time. It’s a long time not to be yourself.”

At least once a week, someone reaches out to Jamie to chat or listen to his advice.
Tying his personal and professional life together, Jamie is content being exactly who he is, where he is, and intends to do so for a long time.

“I have a very intrinsic connection to the land that I can’t quantify. This is where I grew up. It’s probably where I’m going to die.”

“I can’t ever see myself leaving ag. I’ll be in agriculture until the day I die.”

What a gift at the age of 31, to be in the exact place you want to be.

Hear more stories like this by subscribing to the Telling Our Story podcast on iTunes (or wherever you listen to podcasts) and follow podcast host Angie Asimus on Instagram for more updates.

Angie Asimus

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